The world looks at love in a very selfish way, and it is the polar opposite of what the Savior tells us it is in the scriptures. The Lord leaves nothing which we have to guess at in this life. Throughout the scriptures, He is very explicit, yet very plain. Not only does He tell us to whom we are to extend our love, but how to give that love in a manner pleasing unto Him. In contrast, the thought process coming from the worldly viewpoint of love is conditionally based, as in, “How would it benefit me, or what will I get out of it?” It is a one-sided love, requiring and expecting more from other individuals than we do of ourselves. We want to receive it, but we don’t want to give it, especially if it involves any effort, time, or sacrifice on our part.
In Matthew Chapter 22 of the New Testament, a Pharisee came to Jesus inquiring of Him which was the greatest of all the commandments. In His answer, Christ pointed out to him that the first two commandments are the answer to his question, and they tell us exactly who we are to love. They are the nexus, or the foundation and basis on which all the other commandments lie.
First and foremost we are to love God above all else:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self. (Matthew 22:39).
On these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets. (Matthew 22:40).
In a General Conference address given in October 2012, entitled, “The First Great Commandment,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “The crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.” He spoke of the apostle Peter and pointed out that his life was an exemplary one. Peter was an individual who walked, talked, lived, and witnessed great miracles performed by the Savior, and until the very end of his life was indeed himself a loyal, devoted and dedicated proclaimer, as well as defender, of the gospel.
The term “fixed faithfulness,” as coined by Elder Holland in this talk, perfectly describes the character and nature of Peter, the Lord’s first and chief apostle. He was the apostle who the Lord would entrust with the sealing power; the one to whom He said, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19). He was also the apostle to whom the resurrected Christ would appear and ask three times, “Simon Peter, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Peter would answer each time in the affirmative with, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” The final commission given to Peter from Jesus was, then “Feed my lambs.” “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17).
Just as Peter was asked, we should continually ask ourselves, “Do I really love the Lord? Am I doing all that I can to stay honest in my accountability and stewardship to Him?” In response to His question, “Do you love me?” could I answer unequivocally and without hesitation, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee”?
Keeping the Lord’s second commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves might not always be smooth sailing. Our attitudes have a great deal to do with the way we serve and give our love to others. Thus the second part of extending love (the how), is every bit as important as the who. In fact, if not given sincerely, compassionately, and with pure intent (or the pure love of Christ, which is charity), here is what the scriptures tell us our feeble and misguided attempts at kindness, doing a good deed, and helping others in the guise of love becomes:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass and or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).
As the Lord has commanded us to love all of our fellow man, for some of us that may present a particular and difficult challenge, yet a precise, genuine, and heartfelt way for us to truly show the Lord that we are “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22). Our words and our promises should not be shallow, vain, or even as hollow “sounding brass,” which is just useless and purposeless noise. Rather our actions should justify our words, so they are not judged to be empty and insincere by the Lord, rendering us unprofitable and unworthy servants.
As we show a more pure love of Christ (or charity), for those outside of our own inner circles who we are naturally drawn to, or have an affinity for, we oftentimes grow in ways unknown to ourselves beforehand. As we become people who extend our love past those who love us, we become better individuals ourselves. In the process, we develop more Christ-like attributes such as greater compassion, empathy, and gratitude for what we already have. Without even realizing it, we become like the one we most want to emulate—the Savior.
Those who aren’t just like us—who perhaps don’t talk, think, dress, look, have the same social status, education, or intellect that we do, are each loved by our Heavenly Father. It is by His will, directive, and counsel, we are asked to love them ourselves. We are to love them just as they are, no matter to what degree they may be completely different, or have lifestyles totally at odds with ours.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, stated:
Every person we meet is a VIP to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen. . . . True love requires action. We can speak of love all day long—we can write notes or poems that proclaim it, sing songs that praise it, and preach sermons that encourage it—but until we manifest that love in action, our words are nothing. . . . Without this love for God the Father and our fellowmen we are only the form of His Church—without the substance. What good is our teaching without love? What good is missionary, temple, or welfare work without love? (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Are My Hands, Apr. 2010 General Conference.)
A few months ago, Diane Robertson at Mormon Women Stand wrote an article called, “Feeling Left Out at Church? Try These 6 Things”. It was one of the most widely read articles ever posted on our site. Between its readership and the comments and responses it generated, it engaged well over 6,000 people online. Clearly the subject matter of whether an individual felt comfortable at Church or not was of great interest in the blogosphere.
It was disheartening to read the comments elicited by this particular post, coming from various individuals who recalled very personal, hurtful, and painful experiences they experienced while at church. Accompanied by a plethora of emotions which ranged from frustration to outright anger and bitterness, they described feelings of loneliness, isolation, not being needed, wanted, or a part of things, along with feelings of being passed by, ignored, and even shunned.
One sister recalled sitting alone at Church, with no one even approaching her to reach out to extend a hand in friendship, ask who she was, or even inquire as to whether she was a visitor or a new member of the ward. She felt like it simply wouldn’t matter to anyone if she was a no show at Church from that time forward.
Another of the comments reflected the writer’s extreme distaste for the cliques that were highly visible and notably exclusive in her ward. She felt church was a place where you should go and feel welcomed, loved, and strengthened; yet to her disappointment, she denied feeling any of those.
Hopefully the recollections that were less than stellar observations and perceptions of the Church and its people were more of an exception than the actual rule, and that those who were the recipients of exclusiveness find more in the way of acceptance and the pure love of Christ which is charity in the future. In other words, they can have opportunity to witness church as it should be.
While the majority of people in the world may limit or restrict their love on the basis of who is the most attractive, popular, wealthy, or most successful; as members of the Church, Christ is our pattern in all things. Through his example, time and again He showed us who and how we are to extend our love, without restrictions.
Elder M. Russell Ballard reiterated that our Church’s doctrine is the same as Christ’s—one of inclusion:
That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine (M. Russell Ballard, Doctrine of Inclusion, Oct. 2001 General Conference).
Her hobbies include cooking (southern of course- please pass the cornbread with butter, no margarine please), and learning how to garden in a colder climate without killing a sweet pea. She is an avid reader of the scriptures and anything from British classic literature. Her favorite novel is "Our Mutual Friend," by Charles Dickens. With any spare time left over, a fun pastime is viewing and analyzing Korean/Taiwanese drama with English subtitles. She loves the sound of "kamsahamnida."Susan and her husband of 37 years live in Great Falls, Montana and are the parents of two grown children and the grandparents of two adorable grandsons.
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